I’d be lying if I said I gave much thought to the concept of Mercy. This Christmas I was given the beautiful book – Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott.
Maybe you’re well acquainted with mercy, but in case you aren’t, mercy can be seen as offering forgiveness and unconditional love when our brain lists the many valid reasons not to.
Anne Lamott reflects on mercy with wit, honesty and humour. She’s a beautifully irreverent Christian who gives examples in her own life where she’s struggled to offer mercy. She also shares parts of the Bible that speak to mercy. Note: She is LGTBQI++ friendly Christian, hooray!
Here are a few reflections on the concept of mercy.
Mercy Cannot Be Forced
Forgiveness to someone who has hurt you or forgiveness to yourself is not something you can force yourself to do using will power. It’s a moment of grace where you make a shift and you might not even be sure why. It’s imagining that you are opening the internal doors of yourself to even a little bit of light.
Mercy To One Self Is Just As Important As Mercy Given To Others
Many people are excellent at giving mercy to others, but can’t extend that same gift to themselves. This is something I’ve certainly struggled with: holding on to those times that I did something kind of mean or in ignorance and at the same time easily forgiving someone else who would’ve done the same thing.
A great question to ask yourself is: Who do I forgive most easily in my life – myself, others or no one?
What is your first reaction to the thought of extending mercy to yourself or others?
I remember reading how the spiritual leader Ram Dass always put a picture on his altar of the individuals he was struggling to extend mercy towards. Who would be on your altar?
Mercy Is Not The Same As Not Setting Boundaries
Giving mercy is not martyrdom. If you’re giving mercy to everyone else and not yourself, that’s a big imbalance. If you have someone in your life who doesn’t take any accountability for their actions, it’s important to set a boundary. This can be a courageous place to show mercy to yourself for your struggle to set a boundary. It’s never too late to treat yourself with the same kindness and mercy you extend to others.
Starting With Intention
I haven’t forgiven all those that have wronged me. I’d love to blame the other and hold onto self-righteousness sometimes. Like Anne Lamott, some circumstances are either too fresh or I just don’t want to.
Anne would suggest using prayer. Ram Dass would suggest putting a photo of that person/those people on your altar. Another way is to start by asking:
Who am I struggling with right now? How can I open myself (even a little bit) to extend mercy here?
“What would it be like to forgive myself/other person? What might it’s impact be on my life?
Or: “I’d like to forgive __, maybe not today, but sooner, rather than later. I don’t know how that’s going to be possible, but I’m going to put it out there.”
All of these options open your world to the possibility of grace happening to allow mercy into your life. It’s the arrival of true compassion where none existed before.
“I’m not sure I even recognize the ever-presence of mercy anymore, the divine and the human: the messy, crippled, transforming, heartbreaking, lovely, devastating presence of mercy. But I have come to believe that I am starving to death for it, and my world is, too.” – Anne Lamott